Both senior guard Ryan Brooks and junior forward Lavoy Allen nearly notched double-doubles in Saturday’s 76-56 season-opening victory.
It would be premature to slap on the Mission Accomplished label after Game 1.
But the men’s basketball team executed its objective for the 2009-2010 season to near perfection in the season opener Saturday against Delaware.
“Our job this year is no one person can replace [three-time Atlantic Ten Conference scoring leader] Dionte Christmas,” junior forward Lavoy Allen said. “We all got to contribute more on the offensive end.”
The Owls did just that, as they received contributions spanning the roster in their season-opening 76-56 victory against the Blue Hens.
Senior guard Ryan Brooks led the way with a career-high 23 points and nine assists. Brooks, who was named a captain for this season, said he and his teammates were chomping at the bit all offseason to play a meaningful game.
“As a team, we’ve been waiting for this time for a very long time from when we first got back to school and over the summer,” he said. “We were beating up on each other the past couple of weeks in practice, and it’s time to see a different color uniform.”
While Brooks was just one rebound shy of a double-double, it was Allen who was a point short of recording a double-double. Allen scored nine points but did his damage on the glass with 15 rebounds, seven on the offensive boards.
“Their big men were strong and aggressive. I tried to look for my shot, and I think I did a good job rebounding,” Allen said.
While Allen and sophomore forward/center Micheal Eric (seven points, five rebounds) dominated near the basket, it was the guard play that stood out.
Senior guard Luis Guzman headed the offensive attack and finished with eight points and three assists. Dunphy said the most encouraging statistic was that Guzman did not record a single turnover.
“I thought he was very good,” Dunphy said. “He’s an interesting study. He wants to be a player very, very badly. It’s important for him to be out there at the start of the game, and I thought he really helped us. I thought his 3 was a big addition. I thought he defended well.”
Guzman, who was named a team captain along with Brooks, has put together an inconsistent career his first three seasons. He said he wants to make the most of his chance this year.
“I’ve been through a lot since I’ve been in college,” Guzman said. “I put in my mind that there’s nothing I can do but go up. I’m like a vet now. Guys look up to me. Coach gave me an opportunity to show what I got, and now, I have to work hard and give it to him.”
Sophomore point guard Juan Fernandez also made the most of his starting opportunity, finishing with a team-high five assists to go along with 14 points. Fernandez, who took minutes away from Guzman during the second half of last season, showed flashes of his playmaking ability. He also showed a little too much aggression, as evidenced by his four turnovers.
Along with Guzman’s and Fernandez’s leadership and ball control, Brooks is optimistic about the backcourt.
“We’re definitely going to need that from those two these upcoming games and throughout the season,” Brooks said.
In addition to the Owls’ success on the offensive side of the ball, Dunphy said he was delighted with his team’s play on defense.
“I think it was solid,” he said. “I think we had a decent game plan going in. I was pleased with our defense overall.”
Led by freshman forward Rahlir Jefferson, the Temple defense held the Blue Hens to 25 percent shooting in the first half and 33 percent for the contest. The Owls forced nine turnovers, including one by Jefferson, who also provided a highlight-reel worthy baseline dunk for Temple’s final points of the game.
“He gives you so much out on the court,” Dunphy said. “He’s a young guy who’s getting better. He’s a talented guy. He’ll get better and better as the year goes on.”
“He is very long, very athletic,” Brooks added. “He can definitely help us on the defensive end, and I think he did a great job also of trying to get to the glass and just trying to make plays that may not show up in the box score. He’s definitely going to help us down the road.”
Nevertheless, the Owls cannot overlook their imminent future. With upcoming matchups against No. 20 Georgetown and No. 6 Villanova, near-ranked Siena and top-ranked Kansas all by the start of 2010, Dunphy admits that wins like Saturday’s will not be as easy to come by.
“I think it was good team play certainly from the defensive game. I think defense was the key for us,” he said. “We need to try and get better each and every day. [I’m] hoping that’s the direction we’re headed.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.